Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
At HWIS, our approach to teaching the STEM fields is hands-on and inquiry-based, incorporating elements of cooperative learning, and interdisciplinary curriculum. Students develop advanced biliteracy and bicognition because STEM subjects are taught both in the target language and English.
Every inquiry-driven investigation of a scientific concept encourages independent thinking, ownership of one’s work, and a sense of personal accomplishment. Collaboration, in their investigations, with the classroom cohort gives them a wide variety of perspective, which fosters divergent thinking.
For example, in one popular interdisciplinary unit, students are challenged to design a package to house a living plant for three days. They must consider all aspects of the plant’s maintenance and survival, determine what materials will be needed for the package, and calculate the cost of the project to create the most cost effective, functional package.
In another interdisciplinary unit focused on building bridges, students first read a story about a child who asks various questions pertaining to building a bridge that is stable and strong. Taking their lead from the character in the story, students begin to ask questions of their own. They explore different kinds of materials such as playdoh, popsicle sticks, paper, cardboard, or plastic tubes—testing the suitability of each. Finally, they are challenged to build their own bridges to maximize strength and endurance while using as few materials as possible reinforcing values of environmental stewardship.
Beginning in kindergarten, students are assigned an iPad or Chromebook for in class use. Students are taught how to type in both languages, using these as tools to undertake independent research, develop presentations, and collaborate on projects. Students in the Mandarin program begin to learn pinyin in Grade 2 which helps them in typing. Pinyin is a phonetic system used to characterize the sound of the characters.
Hands on learning plays a large role in how we introduce our youngest students to math. Adopting the Singapore Math curriculum our youngest students’ first numerical experiences are sensorial, and involve the handling of physical objects, paving the way for more abstract calculations further down the line.
To illustrate math concepts, such as addition, students they might be given two sets of objects, and asked to put them together, thus giving them the opportunity to reflect on the process of addition. For multiplication, they might count out three groups of five counting chips onto three plates, illustrating, visually and tactilely, that five times three equals fifteen. And for division, the process would of course be reversed: students would distribute a certain number of counters to a certain number of their peers, to determine how many groups of the same size make up their original number.
For elementary students, basic geometry can be explored through manipulatives. They may be given a number of square counters, with each square representing one square inch, and are asked to use their counters to measure various objects in the classroom. From this they can work backwards, thereby arriving at an understanding of calculating areas and perimeters by fewer and more abstract steps.
This is a more effective alternative to rote memorization, such as learning multiplication tables: it equips young mathematicians with the skills they need to truly understand these processes.
For our engineering units, our upper grade elementary and middle school students are taught Scratch, a basic coding language for children. With a solid foundation in this language, they can begin to experiment with block coding, and bring their ideas to life with robotics.